Everyday use of technology to connect individuals near and far is now widespread; a trend which has also transposed into the healthcare industry. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in the urgent need to connect health and care providers to their patients through remote appointments, and a need to address the ongoing concerns about how delivery of care would be maintained. Typically, doctors and other health care providers care for their patients in person at a facility such as a medical office, clinic, or hospital, but with the technology advancement of using computers, smartphones, and other new digital technologies, medical professionals can now diagnose, treat, and oversee their patients' care virtually. This blog outlines how health and care providers can leverage standards, such as ISO 13131:2021, for developing and establishing telemedicine and telehealth processes, with the ultimate goal of improved availability and quality care for patients.
In May 2021, the International Organization for Standardization’s Technical Committee on health informatics (TC215) developed a new guideline ¬– ISO 13131: 2021 . This guideline standard outlines processes that can be implemented to analyse risks to patient data security, and the quality and safety in the delivery of continuity of care, when providers employ telehealth services with their patients. Telehealth is defined as the delivery of health care services at a distance through the use of technology. It can include everything from conducting medical visits over the computer, to monitoring patients' vital signs remotely. Telehealth can be delivered in one of three ways:
- Synchronous – when the doctor communicates with the patient in real time via computer or telephone
- Asynchronous – when data, images, or messages are recorded to share with the doctor later
- Remote patient monitoring – when measurements such as weight or blood pressure are sent to the health care provider.
Healthcare technology is rapidly becoming a fundamental part of the delivery of care, as it enables hospitals, physicians, payers and employer groups to be cost efficient, while improving the availability and quality of care. Virtual care, including virtual clinics and remote interactions with doctors, has been crucial for screening and treating COVID-19 cases from afar. Additionally, the ability to use remote care services has also enabled routine or elective care to continue in an otherwise risky and complicated time of the pandemic. According to a survey from the Medical Group Management Association, 97% of healthcare leaders have expanded telehealth access since the pandemic – showing that telehealth services is a trend that has been and will likely continue to be fully adopted and embraced.
Health and care providers can face challenges in managing new technology, patient data security, as well as the need to reach patients globally with resource constraints around expertise. As the number of patients with chronic conditions rises, in part due to an ageing population, health and care providers have been forced to adopt with technology-enabled ways of diagnosing, monitoring, and treating patients while maintaining the quality of healthcare services. Additionally, patients must be open to receiving such methods of remote care. Almost three-quarters of population surveyed said the pandemic has made them more eager to try virtual care. And one in four people aged 50+ said they'd had a virtual health care visit during the first three months of the pandemic, up from just four percent of older adults who'd had a remote visit the previous year.